On Tuesday, Colts owner and CEO Jim Irsay met with the Indianapolis media to give a 'state of the Colts' address of sorts, and he talked a lot about Peyton Manning and the transition from the quarterback to Andrew Luck. But for as much time as Irsay spent talking about his "dear friend" and former quarterback, Manning, he spent just as much time talking about his current quarterback, Luck.
"He's just so big and physical, and also so smart and so dedicated to his craft, to the game," Irsay said of the third-year signal-caller. "He can use his feet to beat you, to get out of pressure, to get yardage when he needs it. He can throw on the run. His arm strength is at a really high level in this league. The throw he made to T.Y. (Hilton) on the sidelines, I mean that's brilliant. Of course the (Donte) Moncrief play was so special."
Irsay then went on to mention how the Colts need to work on turnovers (such as running back Boom Herron), but added that, "at the same time though, you don't want to put any handcuffs on Andrew. His magic, when you watched him in college, when the play breaks down, in that half a second, he does things that are so innate and so unusual; that's when the magic happens. He just decides in a split second, and he has the athletic and the physical skills to do that with his arm strength, with his feet. So really the sky is the limit.
"You hate to bring up comparisons with John (Elway) being there running their program and stuff, but John was that way of course at Denver," Irsay continued. "He could move, he could run, he could throw and he could really take over a game. In our legacy, Bert Jones was like that as well. Of course Peyton (Manning) is so great in his own right. You're talking about the greatest players to ever play the game at that position when you start talking about Elway, Peyton and Andrew to be, but we don't know how far the sky is for Andrew. He's still a young guy and that's the thing that's exciting."
Hearing Jim Irsay rave about Andrew Luck brought up another reality: that with Luck at quarterback, the Colts expect to win the Super Bowl. Irsay mentioned at the beginning of his press conference that, while he's happy with 11-5 for three straight years and three straight postseason appearances (with two victories), the team expects more, and their ultimate goal is to win a world championship. And Irsay acknowledged that himself, along with general manager Ryan Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano, have to continue to work toward building that championship-caliber team around Luck.
"We have to continue to make sure we feel the weight of responsibility to surround him and get him as a team to the top," Irsay said. "That's the thing, and I told Chuck (Pagano) and Ryan (Grigson), you feel that weight of responsibility. You guys put it on us. It's ‘Hey, when are you going to get to the promised land? You should get there with this guy. When are you going to get there?'"
It's a question that many have been asking about this Colts team - have they really done a great job of building around Andrew Luck? Have they really built a championship-caliber team outside of the quarterback? And the answer to both of those questions is no. Quite simply, the Colts just aren't talented enough to be a true Super Bowl team, but their quarterback is so good that at times they can appear better than their overall talent level.
When the Colts parted ways with Peyton Manning, one of the things many fans mentioned was how the Colts didn't do the best job of building that team around Manning. Certainly, as Irsay pointed out on Tuesday, the 2005 team was "as good of a team as this league has seen" and the best the Colts had during the Manning Era (which I agree with), but as the transition to Andrew Luck happened it was pretty clear that the Colts would have focus more on the team as a whole. But instead of doing that, the Colts have just moved from being totally dependent on one great quarterback in Manning to being totally dependent on another great quarterback in Luck. That's most definitely not the worst place to be, but you also can't waste the talent. Jim Irsay knows that. And he knows that himself, along with Grigson and Pagano and other decision-makers hold the responsibility to build a championship team around their quarterback.
Jim Irsay had very high praise for Andrew Luck and his development, and he also expressed his excitement over what the Colts have done so quickly into their complete rebuild. But underneath that he made sure to point out a number of times that their ultimate goal is to win a Super Bowl, and he realizes the responsibility they have to surround their franchise quarterback with a team that can do that. Of course, they still have to actually do that, but it's at least nice to hear the team owner mention how they have to do that and continue to work on that.
"You're excited that you've done so much so soon but you also feel the weight," Irsay said. "You know where you have to go. We know what we have to do as an organization and that's to get to the top of the mountain and that's what our goals are as we go into this playoff run."